Published on August 10th, 2012 | by Adrian Simpson
Tarp Surfing: it’s the sheet!
Of all the coolest things to do in the world, surfing has to be right at the top; hanging out in board shorts, beautiful beaches, riding a ten foot tube and then disappearing in to the sunset with a dozen bikini clad new friends, is pretty hard to beat. Well, writing this in England in the summer of 2012, yes THAT summer, I couldn’t feel further away from the action. Landlocked, chilly, damp – and no surfboard – how on Earth do I attempt to recreate the magic of Hawaii? A tarpaulin.
Yes, the quickest route to becoming the UK’s answer to Kelly Slater may well lie in your local hardware store because the hour Tarp Surfing is upon us. The concept of skateboarding under a blue tarpaulin plastic ‘wave’ might not sound too convincing but you only have to watch a few seconds of film to see it works beautifully. And it’s not just kids in shorts that think so, marketing executives also understand its potential and it’s already been used for ultra hip companies like Apple to underline their coolness.
It was all one man’s idea, Robert Brady, who was so excited when he invented it, he ran into his house and began patenting it there and then. We spoke to Robert to find out more.
Name: Robert Brady
Hometown: San Juan Capistrano
Occupation: Sell sweatshirts and apparel to the action sports industry
Started surfing aged? 12
Biggest tarp surfing moment? Watching the filming of the iPod commercial my son was in…………… & pulling barrels for the Metal Mulisha motorcycle team while they road wheelies through the tube then came out and hit a ramp pulling back flips……………..…AND Really the biggest Tarp Surfing moment was the very first time my boys pulled a plastic tarp tube for me and I skated through and thought maybe we are the first anywhere to do this and it is so fun and realistic…we have to share this with the world.
If you’re not tarp surfing you’re…? SURFING, working, and/or spending time with the family
Adrian Simpson: How did tarp surfing begin?
Robert Brady: Tarp Surfing started in 2009 in the hills of San Juan Capistrano by my family and a close family friend Dodge Weirath. *I parked my boat in 2009 after being diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. I was covering my boat with a large Blue Tarp when I saw the wind blow a wave through it. I showed the boys and they took it from there. Soon after, Tarp Surfing was born. I beat the cancer and now in remission and the only known survivor of this cancer. A portion of proceeds from our company Blue Tarp Surfing are donated to Stem Cell and Cancer Research. Tarp Surfing actually helped me through it because lots of times I was too sick with no immune system because of all the chemo and couldn’t go in the water so I would get tarp tubes and it helped me get excersize and keep my spirits up…and I could do it with family…it was something exciting during a very hard time. I am in the Tarp Pits video right after the battle and the stem cell transplant.
For Christmas of 2009 the boys got a new tarp and a video camera. The day after the first YouTube Tarp Surfing video titled “Blue Tarp Surfing” was posted. Soon it was on Surfline where the guys from Korduroy.tv saw it. Together they made the second Tarp Surfing video called “Tarp Pits” now considered the best Tarp Surfing video ever made.
The San Juan group knowing this was way more than just a blast to do filed a patent on the game of Tarp Surfing in December 2009. Since then they have filed patents on specially designed tarps and accessories just for Tarp Surfing.
AS: How sceptical were people at the start?
RB: Surfers were straight into it. They saw the plastic wave and wanted to get pitted right off the bat. We would get lines of people wanting to do it. We live at the end of the street and all the neighborhood kids and us big kids were lined up to get a barrel.
Raw skaters are another thing. They didn’t get it till they tried it. It took pushing to get them to go for one but as soon as they did they would come out of the barrel with a huge smile and get right back into line. People who don’t do either were into it as long as they could ride a bike or walk or go slow on a skateboard to try. The best thing are the faces as they come out because it is so real and even if you have never been in a real tube in the ocean getting into a plastic tarp tube and out running it and coming out is a rush even if you don’t have anything to compare it to.
AS: Where do you do your stuff?
RB: Lots of places but really our street is one of the best. We are at the end of the street and there is usually hardly any wind. We can drag out and set up a tarp in just a couple minutes and be getting barreled with out worry of cars. We do draw a bit of a crowd sometimes but we love it. Plus all our sand bags are right there lined up at the end of the street and it is a nice gradual slope. Otherwise we sometimes load up several tarps and go to the industrial section of San Clemente and hit the parking lots lining up several tarps or one very large tarp (30’ x 100”). We will have a big group of us and spend the day getting tons of tubes and experimenting with different ways to ride and pull.
AS: How did people get to know about it?
RB: Youtube blew it up. I bought my sons a tarp and a video camera for Christmas and after they posted the first tarp surfing video things went nuts.
AS: How is tarp surfing viewed by the wider skate community?
RB: Again, skaters (which I was a former mainly hard core skater) are a bit unsure as it is not about a big trick (though lots do them inside the barrel) but it is more about tube time…so going slow and adding style to your tube riding is more the idea. But once they do it (for the most part) they get it…plus they will be the ones to really add to it with new innovative ways to ride.
AS: What has been the pinnacle so far of tarp surfing?
RB: Don’t know…guess so far the pinnacle was the iPod commercial right at the beginning but we are still doing all kinds of crazy things like shipping tarps to various places around the world for all kinds of events. We recently shipped tarps to the UK for a Quiksilver event, also shipped some to Belgium for a Blackberry Surfing Academy, and so on. We also did a thing for Subaru tarp surfing on the roof of a parking garage in downtown LA…it goes on and on…it is crazy but tons of fun.
AS: Is it possible to be a non surfing tarp surfer?
RB: Definitely…you don’t have to surf to understand the fun of it. And it gives a non surfer a chance to see what a well over head dry wide open barrel is like…that is something lots of actually surfers don’t even really know.
AS: Where is tarp surfing headed?
RB: We are working on heavy weight ultra strong tarps pulled by pulleys that you will be actually able to ride (patents pending) and several other brand new things that are being developed that we cant talk about yet…very different from what you would expect but great new ways to have fun with a big blue tarp.
AS: How surprising was it when the commercial world became interested?
RB: Very…when Apple called and wanted to have the kids to a test run to see if they were going to use tarp surfing for the launch of their new product I thought they would never really use it…but after watching the filming and then the actual commercial you can see the visual draw. Then we were invited to be next to the stage at a big concert tour the rock star uproar tour then on and on…and getting paid! Unexpected but obvious after we got rolling…how often do you see a ten+ foot wave breaking in a parking lot with guys getting barreled?
AS: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that tarp surfing would take you around the world?
RB: Actually yes…the very first time I did it I ran back in the house and filed a patent on it and trade mark…I knew this was something that was going to spread and with the internet…fast and everywhere. We knew it would make lots of people happy and stoked all over the world…and it has and still is. If you have not done it you must…you will not be able to keep a smile off your face!
Check out all the fun stuff we have done with it on our website… www.bluetarpsurfing.com